Windsor

Federal government funds UWindsor research looking to dissolve microplastics

The federal government announced earlier this week that they are banning certain forms of single-use plastic by 2021. By the end of next year, plastic bags, straws, stir sticks, six-pack rings and some cutlery. Following that announcement, the University of Windsor was told it would receive support for some new research on dissolving micro-plastics. 

The research is part of the government's Zero Plastic Waste Initiative

Assistant professor at the University of Windsor Jill Crossman says they hope to find a zero cost, zero waste solution to breaking down microplastics in the environment. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

Researchers from the University of Windsor are one of three groups to receive funding from the federal government that will contribute to a national Zero Plastic Waste Initiative.

The federal government announced earlier this week that they are banning certain forms of single-use plastic by 2021. By the end of next year, plastic bags, straws, stir sticks, six-pack rings, cutlery and some takeout containers will be gone. Following that announcement, the government said it was providing $555,000 to three Ontario projects that contribute to this zero plastic goal.

One of these projects is being performed at the University of Windsor by assistant professor Jill Crossman. Her research looks at removing micro-plastics from wastewater. 

When plastic breaks down, it gets into the water system that then goes through treatment plants. About 99 per cent of the plastic gets removed through treatment but the remainder ends up in wastewater bio-solids, Crossman told CBC News. 

Bio-solids are then used as fertilizer on agricultural lands, she added. 

Crossman said she wants to know how microplastics can be removed from the bio-solids before it's applied to the soil.

But she's looking to do so in a zero cost and zero waste way. 

"This is one point in the cycle where we can take it out and there's definitely the manufacturing point in the cycle, there's the user point in the cycle," she said.

"And there's not many mechanisms that have been found that can actually remove microplastics once they're in the environment, so it's really important to reduce our use of plastics in the first place because once they're in the environment it is so difficult to take them out."

Federal Minister of International Development Karina Gould says the government is excited about the innovative work the university is doing around microplastics. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

The research is ongoing at treatment plants across Ontario. 

Federal Minister of International Development Karina Gould said this sort of unique research work is needed. 

"The University of Windsor is doing really interesting, exciting, innovative work to try and address a problem that we're all facing," she said, adding that it's another step toward the government's zero plastic waste goal set for 2030. 

The two other projects the government will fund include one at Carleton University and another at Georgian Bay Forever.

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